Queen of Sheba

The other day I attempted one of Julia Child’s signature desserts from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (MTAOFC) – Reine de Saba. Or at it is referred to in Julia’s The Way to Cook – Queen of Sheba cake.

I’m not doing cakes right now, much to HH’s shagrin, but CUPcakes as I get ready for The Twelve Days of Cupcakes this Christmas. So off I go to make Queen of Sheba Cupcakes.

Since I followed the recipe in MTAOFC, I had read through it a few times with MTAOFC arrived at the Diner (what a day!) Then I read it again during the summer, refreshing my memory on my next recipe from MTAOFC. Then again a few weeks ago when I was compiling the list of cupcakes to try for The Twelve Days. Then last week when I was putting together the grocery list. And finally two more times, very carefully, yesterday as I pulled ingredients from the cupboard, got my equipment ready, put on my apron, getting ready to begin.

Julia writes her recipes a little different from most others, she has the ingredients and equipment in bold on the left 1/3 of the page, and the instructions for those pieces and parts on the right 2/3 of the page. So it takes a little getting used to (hence, all the reviewing.)

I start by shaving the chocolate and melting it with 2 tbsp of dark rum in a double boiler,

then creaming the softened butter and granulated sugar in one of my favorite bowls – my large yellow Pyrex mixing bowl from Donna.

Separating yolks and whites;
pulverizing almonds in the blender;
beating egg whites in the counter-top mixer and…

Julia Slow Down! You are going too fast! There is just too much going on at once in so many bowls! Remember, I like “Dinner in a Bowl,” you know, one bowl meals?! This is a lot.

Okay, deep breath, and…

Add chocolate mixture to butter/sugar mixture; stir in almonds and almond extract. IMMEIATELY stir in ¼ egg whites. Delicately fold in 1/3 remaining whites, the sift 1/3 flour folding – Oops! Wrong kind of flour, need cake flour not regular flour. Alternate RAPIDLY (more of that “hurry up” thing!) with more egg whites and more flour until all incorporated.

I know this last sequence did not look like it was supposed to, but that was I to do! I was going as fast as I could and Julia was STILL saying “hurry!”

That's a little better.

Then the part where Julia turned over in her grave, instead of a cake pan, I put the batter in paper cupcake holders. Oh, well. I’m never going to be Julia, I can only be Holly of Holly’s Diner, and this will have to do.

I filled the cupcake holders just ½ ways, baked at 350º for 12 minutes (the cake called for 25). The center is supposed to be “molteny” (I told HH this; he looked at me funny and said “what’s molteny?”) You know, volcano-y, you bit in and the center may ooze out – yummy!

I took them out, let them cool. Not molteny, but moist and very delicious.

Thank you, Julia. Success!


Chicken Pot Pie

During a drizzly week, Chicken Pot Pie was the feature one night at the Diner.

Now I’ve made chicken pot pie before – chicken, chicken soup, frozen veggie mix, cut up Pillsbury biscuits on top. This recipe was fine, but it was time to step it up. So with a little inspiration from Paula Deen and Taste of the South’s Foodimentary author, viola! A Holly’s Diner version of Chicken Pot Pie.

Chicken Pot Pie, Holly’s Diner style
1 tbsp olive oil
1 chopped carrot (at least ½ cup)
2 large chopped red potatoes (about 2 cups)
½ chopped onion
½ cup chicken broth
2 (10 ¾ oz) cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
½ tsp dried parsley flakes
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 chicken breast shredded, cooked, skinless
½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 package Pillsbury crescent rolls

Preheat oven to 350º. (Cut chicken into “tenders”; season and cook.) Chop carrots and red potatoes into small bite-sized pieces, place in a oven-proof bowl; drizzle with a little olive oil and season; bake for ≈45 minutes, until fork potatoes are fork tender. Spray 4 (2 cup) ramekins with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onions until translucent, about 3 -5 minutes. Add potatoes and carrots. Add chicken broth and cook until reduced by half, about 3 – 4 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine coup, sour cream, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir in vegetables, chicken and cheese. Spoon into prepared ramekins.
Place two flat triangles of crescent roll over each ramekin so they form a square and drape over the sides. Poke holes in crescent roll top to allow steam to escape. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Note: Make sure crescent dough is flat across top of bowl, not sunken; if sunken, the depressed part will cook slower and you run the risk of uncooked dough.

Note for next time: Although not my favorite, Chicken Pot Pies just needs the green of peas. Next time I’ll add some frozen peas to make this pie complete.



It’s HH’s favorite time of year – Dinner-in-a-Bowl Season!

Beef Stroganoff was on the menu the other night. A new recipe from Paula Dean, but surprisingly no butter in the recipe!

This was a slow cooked beef tip and onion dish – I even put the cream of mushroom soup in that it called for, I DO NOT like mushrooms. But in this format, not so noticeable – it’s a texture thing.

Anyway, egg noodles, slow cookin’ ready for the dinner crowd at the Diner on a gloomy day – perfect!

Oh, and it has my favorite condiment in it – sour cream. Ohhhh, I love sour cream. After scooping out of the container what is needed, I get to lick the spoon, yummy.

Sorry, got sidetracked. Beef Stroganoff served with bread and butter, just like HH likes it.



Before my fiasco with the blender and three cups of sugar, I had intended to change up the weekday AM breakfast routine at the Diner. Normally on weekdays, it’s a scrambled omelet with fresh spinach and topped with fresh salsa. I wanted to try a breakfast smoothie – which requires a blender!

Well, now that the fantastic HH has fixed the blender I made breakfast smoothies this AM.

Here’s the recipe:

1 cup milk
½ package of tofu (≈ 7 oz)
2 really ripe bananas
½ tsp vanilla
Some honey (≈ ¼ cup)

Throw everything in the blender. Blend. Done. Delicious!

Thank you HH for saving the day.


Don's Pie

Garlic Gal sent me a recipe a few months ago, something Chef Don of the regionally famous Bevi Bistro and world renowned Any Bozzo Can Cook had perfected. The recipe is Crostata Di Proscuitto, Spinaci E Formaggio or in Diner lingo “Don’s Pie.”

Wow! When Garlic Gal sent it to me, I was very impressed, but not sure I could live up to the photo. I was a little concerned about the pie pastry because I know that, in general, pie pastry is not easy. I have made the pie crust from Melissa d’Arabian of Next Food Network Star fame, so I thought I would try a new one – until it came right down to it.

I whimped out and made the pie crust from Melissa, I just felt more comfortable with it. She did such a good job in her recipe at describing what the dough should look like along the way. And although I’ve talked about it before, this time I’m including photos of the steps along the way.

Anyway, back to Don’s Pie, before you attempt this know you have to like onions. Fortunately, the standard dinner crowd at Holly’s Diner likes onions!


Pulsing a bit more (maybe a little too much!)

Resting (and into the frig)





Washing (a little overkill)

The Crostata Di Proscuitto, Spinaci E Formaggio (Don’s Pie) at Holly’s Diner didn’t look like it probably did at the Bevi Bistro, but is sure tasted delicious!

I told HH that there was Italian ham in it, he was very excited. Then he figure out that “Italian ham” is paper this, tasty but not the manly ham he was expecting. He actually had a lot more vegetables on “Don’s Pie” Night than meat, and that’s always a victory!

(Chef Don and “Attenzione Magazine” July/Aug 1982)
Pie Pastry
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 egg
Pinch salt
4-5 Tablespoons Chilled White Wine
• Mix the flour and butter until crumbly
• Add egg, salt and wine. Mix until dough is completely moistened. Like pie dough.
• Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
• Divide Dough and roll to fit a 10 tart pan with removable bottom.

Pie Filling
2 packages frozen spinach (10 ounces)
4 tablespoons butter
2 onions thinly sliced
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese grated
1/3 cup heavy cream
½ pound porsciutto thinly sliced
5-6 ounces of Fontina cheese, diced
1 egg lightly beaten (for egg wash of pie)
• Preheat oven to 375 F
• Cook spinach according to package directions. Drain thoroughly.
• In medium skillet melt the butter, when butter foams, add onions and sauté over medium heat until they have a pale yellow color.
• Add spinach, salt, pepper, Parmesan and cream. Mix to blend and cook 1 -2 minutes. Let cool
• Cover the bottom of the pasty shell with one layer of porsciutto, followed by half the Fontina cheese
• Add the spinach mixture and an additional layer of Fontina followed by porsciutto.
• Roll the remaining dough into a circle and place on tart pan. Pinch together to seal top and bottom crusts.
• Reroll the trimmings or cut or form into leaf, stems and buds. Arrange on top to make an attractive pattern. Brush surface with beaten egg and prick the top in 5 – 6 places with fork.
• Bake 40 Minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before serving. (Also great at room temperature.) Can be made one or two days ahead.



Tomato Harvest 2010

Tomato Harvest 2010 was a definite success!

There were tomatoes for homemade tacos, tomatoes for BLTs, tomatoes for Caprese Salad, tomatoes for sandwiches, tomatoes for burgers, tomatoes for side salads, tomatoes to share, tomatoes to can, and tomatoes for Mother Nature.

This season’s harvest came to an end a week and a half ago. I had left the last tomato on the last plant to ripen. I went out the about a week ago to see if it was ready, it was but Mother Nature sent one of her critters over to “lunch.” Apparently the last tomato of the season was not for me.

Oh well, there are still tomatoes to enjoy at the Diner, with the first of the canned tomatoes used for Albondigas.

It didn’t look any different. It didn’t smell any different. But is sure tasted different!

So delicious, so flavorful, so full of summer sun! Okay, maybe I was projecting that, but it sure was great to use our homegrown tomatoes!

I also used the sauce this past week for pasta and red sauce, and a little left over for a deep dish pizza – equally as tomatoey fresh and delicious. It’s really cool to savor the summer on a cool fall evening.


Southern-Style Specials

Well, as the weather starts to change in Southern California – from 80º+ to the mid-60s – so does the menu at the Diner.

We started off the week with Texas Chili on the menu, perfect for watching Sunday Night Football. This is a chunky, beefy chili which we added beans too – white and chili. I just need some beans in my chili.

Next was my first attempt at chicken fried. I have always read “chicken fried steak” on menus and been very confused by that. What is it? Chicken or steak? So now with Paula Deen’s help I have figured it out. It’s a flat steak coated and fried like chicken.

Paula’s recipe was actually Chicken Fried Chicken, which sounded much better to me. I got all ready to fix the chicken breasts when I thought “HH does not prefer a big chicken breast on his plate.” Chicken breast incorporated in pieces, or stuff is okay but not just the breast. So I stopped and put the menu on hold for a night.

The next morning I went out, got some chicken thighs and proceeded with Chicken Fried Chicken that Night.

Part of my on-going anxiety of fried chicken is that I am NEVER going to do it as well as HH’s Mom or sister, they have been fixing it forever and I have not.

Paula’s recipe called for a coating that includes soaking in buttermilk and egg and then dipping in flour and crumbled saltine crackers.

I started with the thighs, then the breasts. The thighs turned out marginal – just barely cooked through and the outside over cooked. The boneless breasts, on the other hand, turned out great! A quick fry on either side to golden, and because they were pounded out they cooked fast and remained moist.

HH tasted both, and liked the breasts! Since they are coated and fried, it makes the big hunk of chicken breast okay!

Maybe MY fried chicken will be the Chicken Fried Chicken boneless breasts. Maybe I don’t have to do fried chicken like HH’s Mom and sister. Maybe he can look forward to having their fried chicken occasionally, and when we have fried chicken at the Diner, it’s Chicken Fried Chicken. I can do that!

Here’s Paula’s Recipe:

Chicken Fried Chicken
Paul Deen Magazine – July/August 2010
2/3 cup whole buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 sleeves saltine crackers, crushed
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp seasoned salt
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2” thickness
Vegetable oil for frying

In a shallow dish, wisk together buttermilk and eggs.

In a separate shallow dish, combine crushed crackers, flour and seasoned salt.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a cooling rack over baking sheet.

Dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, letting excess drip off. Dredge in cracker mixture to coast. Place chicken on prepared cooling rack, and let stand for 20 minutes to set crust. (Try not to freak out about having the raw chicken sit out for 20 minutes; I didn’t like it but no one got sick, so it’s okay.)

In a large skillet, pour oil to a depth of ½”. Heat oil over medium-high heat at 360º.

Fry chicken, in batches if necessary, for 4 – 6 minutes per side or until chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Set chicken on a clean cooling rack, and keep warm.



Game Day Breakfast

The breakfast crowd at the Diner was in a hurry this morning. Our special beer pancakes with a side of sausage and fried eggs were on the menu.

Unfortunately, the cook was feeling the pressure of a 10 AM Chargers at St. Louis start. Replacing water with beer in the pancakes makes them lighter and fluffier, unless you don’t add enough beer! That’s what happened during this morning’s breakfast rush.

The pancake batter poured out like cement, no extra beer available and the clock ticking. These cakes ended up so thick they were, well, cakey not fluffy. They tasted fine, but I have to talk to the cook about rushing it. She can do better than that!


What's Cookin'?

What’s Cookin’ where you are? For the past nine years I have spent the first two weeks in Fresno for the Big Fresno Fair, BFF for short. This year, I’m at the Diner! Not in the 90º+ weather, but enjoying the overcast and potential rain. I’m cooking and harvest (the last of the season) and getting ready for “The Twelve Days of…” at Christmas.

As I update you in the next few days on What’s Cookin” at Holly’s Diner, share what’s cookin’ where you are. It's meal-in-a-bowl season here, HH's favorite!

In the meantime, I have a quick sugar story. So today I’m working on two recipes for “The Twelve Days of…” and I need some powdered sugar to finish a frosting recipe. I only have about a cup of powdered sugar on hand and need three cups (so I didn’t do a very good job of adding that to my shopping list yesterday!)

I looked on-line “powdered sugar substitute.” Something came up that said I could measure out granulated sugar, put what I needed in the blender and blend on high until powdered. There were a few reviews that followed that confirmed this worked. Great, I thought. So I tried.

The problem: Dang!

The blender stopped working before the sugar was fully powdered. The frosting was a little “crunchy,” it gave it texture.


Rubber Chicken

If you stop by the Diner, you never know what will be on the menu. Often it’s chicken. And while the chicken pot pie is bubbling, or the chicken mole enchiladas are simmering, or the stuffed chicken breast is sautéing, or HH's favorite chicken is frying we might just break out the “Girls” for an impromptu rubber chicken toss.

The Girls are the Henrietta chickens. The more petite ones are for kids, and the adults always get the big girls. No matter the time of year you will find them in their purple polka dot bikinis with their red lipstick in place, ready for a toss.

While in Seattle I found Earl.

Need I say more? Probably not, but the resume that came with Earl stated the following:

Earl – The Utimate Chick MagnetMeet Earl, conceived in the back of an old pick-up truck in Memphis, Earl became a legend in his own mind. He never looked back at his less than humble beginnings, preferring instead to bask in the glory of his alter-ego, “Earlvis.” Between gigs at the now famous nightclubs, “Charred & Feathered” and “Escape the Coyote”, Earl is very busy breaking hearts wherever he goes. A life-long bachelor, Earl’s smoldering good looks and charming personality make him the ultimate “chick” magnet. Now semi-retired, Earl owns a small honky-tonky joint in Daytona Beach where “Earlvis” sightings are occasionally reported.

Oh my! The Girls are definitely going to have to educate Earl on the pecking order of the Diner!

By the way, all the chickens make noise. The Girls have their squeaker in their throats, so when you squeeze them they sound like, well, a chicken. Earl’s squeaker, on the other hand, is located in his…pants. When you squeeze him it sounds like something rude boys do and need to say “excuse me” for. I’m sure the Girls will teach him well.